Josh Black
Jun 28, 2016

Cannes 2016: How to tell if a piece of work truly entertained or was just entertaining

Josh Black of GroupM learnt more about what works in this industry in the final 15 hours of judging Lions Entertainment than he has in the last 15 months.

Entertainment jury
Entertainment jury

In an effort to put more focus on entertainment, Cannes Lions formed a new category for the craft in 2016 – a category committed to rewarding work that is creatively unskippable, or as I’ve said for years, stuff that people actually want to watch.

Jae Goodman, CCO and co-head at CAA Marketing, was selected to be the jury president. As a multiple Cannes Grand Prix winner, Jae was the perfect choice within the industry to lead the twenty-person jury selected to redefine what the Lions Entertainment category means at Cannes. Under Jae's leadership, CAA Marketing has won four Cannes Lions Grand Prix in four different categories for Chipotle (Film and Branded Content & Entertainment in 2012 for ‘Cultivate’ and animated short film, ‘Back to the Start’; Cyber and PR in 2014 for ‘The Scarecrow’) as well as countless other industry awards.

The jury included a diverse group of people selected from agencies and content production teams (FUSE, Octagon, M&C Saatchi Sports & Entertainment, BBDO, Havas Sports & Entertainment, BBH, GroupM, MSL Group, Ant Farm, twofifteenmccann, J. Walter Thompson, 72&Sunny, Ogilvy & Mather), platforms (Netflix & Brand New Media), rights holders (Fremantle Media), rights managers (WME / IMG & CAA Marketing), brands (PepsiCo) and academies (Academia de Filmes).

Despite the fact that we had such a broad group of people from around the world that had a different perspective on where the industry was heading, I’d be surprised if the 2016 Cannes Entertainment Jury doesn’t go down as being one of the most collaborative juries to have ever judged at this awards show. There was nothing but total respect within the room for everyone’s opinions and, Jury President, Jae Goodman, did a fantastic job keeping the team focused and objective. Egos were checked in at the front door and every single person that had an opinion about a piece of work was given their chance to speak. On most days we worked and socialized together, an unexpected benefit that built some great friendships across the industry.

From the outset, as a team we decided that we needed to set some parameters through which work would be judged:

1. Quality: Any work needed to be of Cannes quality.
2. Integration: How effectively any brand associated with the content had been relevantly integrated or inserted into the content.
3. Form: Whether the work truly entertained or was just entertaining.
4. Intent: What was the intent behind the piece of work – was it created to entertain, add value, interrupt or drive a cause.

Through the judging process we saw close to 2,000 pieces of work submitted across multiple categories in the entertainment space, and there was some work that truly delighted us. Whilst we were in Cannes, the jury would convene from 8.30am each day through to around 5.30pm, although on one of the final days we went through closer to 10pm and then on the final night, when we awarded all of the metal and the Grand Prix, discussions closed at 1.30am the next morning after judging for fifteen hours. I think every single person left the room that night, exhausted on one hand, but educated, inspired and enriched on the other hand. I learnt more about what works in this industry in those 15 hours than I have in the last 15 months.

The Grand Prix winner, The New York Times for its work on ‘The Displaced’, is a piece of work that literally places a viewer in the centre of the world’s greatest refugee crisis. It was heavily debated in the jury room.

On one hand, you could argue that the New York Time’s use of content, marketing and distribution was pure marketing genius, and it was. A single piece of marketing has transformed their business and their brand. ‘The Displaced’ has propelled the New York Times into the 21st Century and the brand marketer inside of me applauds them for their tremendous work.

On the other hand, the New York Times is a publisher and journalism is what they do. That thinking though is only holding us back as an industry. It’s outdated and irrelevant. The argument was made that anyone can be a publisher today – brands, advertisers, news organisations, platforms, rights holders and individual people. The siloed lines of advertiser, agency and publisher were erased years ago and from a consumer’s perspective, they don’t care where great content comes from – as long as they can access it where they want, when they want and how they want. They don’t care if that comes from Netflix, FOX, The Wall Street Journal, General Electric, PepsiCo or Bethany Mota – it’s all content and entertainment.

In the end, the room were in agreement that The Displaced should be awarded for their work and I applaud what they have achieved here at Cannes in 2016. Entertainment propelled the brand forward in leaps and bounds proving the power of the medium for both its ability to drive business results and create popular culture.

There has been a considerable amount of negative press during the week about Asia’s lack of creative work at Cannes and I wanted to give my opinion on that at least from the Cannes Entertainment point of view. Within the work that we saw, Asia produced and presented some lovely pieces of work, two of which won big.

Jae Goodman, Lions Entertainment Jury President, said, in regards to the submissions from Asia, "I was honestly surprised upon hearing the sentiment that Asian creativity was under-represented at this year's Cannes Lions. That was certainly not the case in the first-ever Entertainment Lions. In particular, work from Singapore and Taiwan both transcended and were awarded accordingly with great enthusiasm by the Jury."

NTUC Income’s ‘Orange Aid’ campaign from Singapore took home a Silver Lion – it was a brave piece of work from a conservative brand that had great character development and scripting. Of the twenty jurors in the room, only 4 were from the Asia Region, however the other 16 jurors felt a great sense of emotional attachment to the story, and Singapore, after immersing ourselves in the piece of work over the week we spent reviewing it countless times. As someone that has lived and worked in Asia for the last 14 years, including spending 5 years in Singapore, I was proud to see two young creatives from BBH Singapore take the stage and accept the award.

Uni President’s ‘House of Little Moments’ campaign for Uni-Noodles Taiwan achieved an even higher grade, winning gold. The winning agency, ADK Taiwan, applauded with both surprise and delight, when they were announced. They later went on to win the crowd when they unfurled a Taiwanese national flag outside of the Cannes Theatre after the Awards show. It was a moving moment for a country that hasn’t traditionally been a big winner at Cannes.

The campaign was incredible from both a film craft and directing point of view. One jury member, a globally respected film producer, described the Season 1 production as, “stunning film craft.” Another jury member commented, “the integrated nature of this work is world class”, and it was. Off the back of the micro-movies, Uni President launched an actual noodle shop where Taiwanese consumers could experience the brand as though they were actual cast members of the show. The campaign will win big across Asia in 2016.

‘Dads Share The Load’ from P&G India won a bronze Lion and Nike ‘Rise’ from the Philippines made a very competitive shortlist and should also be applauded.

A body of work from Australia and New Zealand also performed strongly in the Entertainment Lions. ‘Airline Wager’ from Qantas and Air New Zealand created entertainment around the Rugby World Cup; McWhopper from Y&R Auckland was a brilliantly effective campaign and has been awarded richly in Cannes; and, ‘Unforgotten Soldiers’ from Sky Television New Zealand for the History Channel is some of the best live entertainment I have seen in my 20 year career as a marketer. As the Cannes Awards were announced and many saw this work for the first time, people were applauding the effort well before the case study video ended.

Creativity is alive in Asia. Brands are pushing the boundaries and I’d encourage advertisers and content producers to really take a closer look at submitting their best work for consideration in 2017. I spend a large amount of time traveling around Asia for my role at GroupM and I have personally seen bodies of work out of markets like China, India, Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia that I know would have would have performed competitively at the Entertainment Lions in 2016. Not to take away from the work that we did see, which was of an incredibly high standard, but as jurors, we can only judge what we see, so if things are not being pushed for submission, they can’t be included for awards consideration.

The 2017 Entertainment Lions will be about continuing to encourage brave work built off smart thinking, intelligent media planning and great story telling. It’s a simple formula but if you can get it right, you have a great chance of a consumer hitting the replay button rather than the skip one, and once you can do that, you are on the path to content that entertains and performs.


Josh Black is CEO of GroupM’s content businesses across Asia Pacific



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